Sidmouth learns of golden finds under the sea

Salvage divers launch series of talks at Sidmouth’s Kennaway House

WHAT an exciting life members of SW Maritime Archaeological Group lead.

Two of its members, salvage divers Ron Howell and Andy Elliott, launched a series of three talks – Update on History – at Kennaway House on Friday, with an illustrated talk about the finds they have revealed from wreck sites off Cornwall, the Isle of Wight, Dorset and particularly the Erme Estuary near Salcombe, where they found gold from both a 17th century galleon and more rare golden finds from the Bronze Age.

The group formed in 1976 and in 1993 members won a Duke of Edinburgh gold medal for their work.

The amateur divers hand over their finds to the British Museum and were responsible for discovering one of the largest gold hordes in April 1995, a day “which changed our lives” said Ron.

“It was like a one-armed bandit down there,” he said.

For three years the team kept the find secret so treasure hunters didn’t raid the site. Then their discovery made national headlines.

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Not all the exciting finds are golden. One important tool, like a hoe and found only in Sicily, was found in the area, meaning traders were travelling to the South West in the Bronze Age.

A tin ingot found is known to come from Turkey and Moroccan dinars, dating from 1107 to 1630, have also been found, along with a favourite discovery, a baroque clay pipe, intricately carved, from Edam, Holland.

The wreck area is protected and the group continues its work there.

Next speaker in the series of three talks organised by Ffiona is by John Allan, former curator of Exeter Museum, who tonight (Friday) from 7.30pm, explores the rich tradition of carving and links with Breton craftsmen in early Tudor Devon.

The final talk is on Wednesday, November 23 at 2.30pm by Valerie Belsey, who returns to Sidmouth to talk further on Green Lanes and the history of East Devon.